FORMER DIRECTOR OF BROOKLYN MUSEUM OF NEW YORK IN SOUTH AFRICA TO ASSESS THE CURRENT STATE OF ITS VISUAL ARTS
Arnold Lehman, internationally known former director of New York’s Brooklyn Museum for 18 years has joined PHILLIPS auction house to advise PHILLIPS on its global brand and to actively engage with museums and artists worldwide.
One of his first tasks is to raise the profile of PHILLIPS in Africa. The company is best known internationally for the strength of its Modern and Contemporary Art Sales.
PHILLIPS links with South Africa started with its sale of a William Kentridge edition work in 1999 which made a record of $17,250 (against an estimate of $1,500 to $2,000) at an auction sale in New York, alerting the company to the South African potential.
But Mr Lehman says: “We are newcomers on the African continent, so we are starting to look at art where both long time collecting and the current art market is strongest, South Africa. The value of South African art has risen exponentially over the last decade and as a major player in Modern and Contemporary Art we are here to learn as much as possible about this exciting new market which is beginning to attract international attention from major art collectors worldwide.”
He says that his goal is to meet as many collectors, artists, museum professionals, gallerists, and art writers as possible in order to build both a better understanding of the art world in South Africa and to learn how PHILLIPS might be of assistance in that world.
“Our goal is to create as much awareness as possible that PHILLIPS is keenly interested in the current status of the visual arts in South Africa and that our trip to SA is the first opportunity for me, as Senior Advisor at PHILLIPS, to see it for myself.” He is also looking forward to visiting the Cape Town Art Fair.
Highly respected in the national and international art community, Mr. Lehman has been an activist museum director for over forty years. During that time, he has been an advocate and leader of public accessibility, diversity, community, innovation, and freedom of expression in American museums and other cultural institutions. In his eighteen years at Brooklyn, over 200 exhibitions were presented under his guidance and traveled to institutions around the world. Among Mr. Lehman’s exhibition priorities has been to focus on African American artists and artists of color from all over the world, including Kehinde Wiley, Yinka Shonibare, Takashi Murakami, Michalene Thomas, El Anatsui, Hank Willis Thomas, Ai Weiwei, Hew Locke, Sanford Biggers, and Zanele Muholi among many others.
Director since 1997 of the Brooklyn Museum, one of the oldest and largest fine arts collections in the United States, Mr. Lehman prioritized both the individual visitor’s experience and the community’s engagement with the Museum through innovative exhibitions and re-installations of the permanent collection; highly successful public programs that address the diversity of the collection and the community; active support for the participation of Brooklyn-based artists; and an ongoing major capital program that has greatly enhanced the accessibility of the Museum and the preservation of its vast collections. Upon his retirement on August 31, 2015, Mr. Lehman was honored with being appointed the first Director Emeritus of the Brooklyn Museum.
Prior to Brooklyn, Lehman, who has an M.Phil.and a PhD from Yale University, was director of the Baltimore Museum of Art and was on the faculty of Johns Hopkins University. He is currently one of thirteen Visiting Fellows at the Ford Foundation, along with distinguished South African, Albie Sachs, where he advises on issues of social justice, creativity, and freedom of expression. At the Foundation he is specifically working to advance museum professionals of colour.
He served as President of the Association of Art Museum Directors and as the long-time Chair of the Cultural Institutions Group (CIG) of New York City, representing 33 major cultural institutions. Mr. Lehman is a Trustee of the American Federation of Arts and a member of the Executive Committee of the Bard Graduate Center. He served as Co-Chair of the Arts and Culture Transition Committee for New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio, as well as for Brooklyn’s new Borough President. He is a specialist in American twentieth century and contemporary art and recently received the Wunsch Award for Excellence in American art. He currently serves as Senior Advisor to the Chairman and CEO of PHILLIPS.
Photo: Arnold Lehman (supplied)